Category: Top Peloponnese posts (page 1 of 4)

Top beach, golf, diving and other outdoor activity attractions near Marathopoli


Proti Island

Located just one nautical mile from the town of Marathopoli in southwestern Messenia, Proti Island is a popular day trip destination for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, cliff jumping and trekking. This aerial photo of Proti Island is from the website for the Artina hotels in Marathopoli.


Lagouvardos, shown in this aerial video by Giannis Mpantes, is a long golden sand beach less than 3 kilometers from Marathopoli. It’s considered one of the top surfing spots in Greece, and also attracts enthusiasts of windsurfing, SUP, canoeing and other watersports. 


Surf’s up!: In a recent post I noted that the quiet, laid-back town of Marathopoli is an ideal base for travellers wishing to explore Methoni, Pylos, Navarino, Voidokilia and other popular places in the Messenian region of the southwestern Peloponnese. 

Even closer to the town are two noteworthy destinations that draw active travellers seeking scenic spots for outdoor sports activities such as swimming, surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, trekking and fishing.

Uninhabited Proti Island, which dominates sea views from the town, is approximately one nautical mile away and can be accessed in summer on boat trips from Marathopoli harbour.  The tours take passengers to secluded coves, including Grammeno Bay,  and stop at picturesque Vourlia beach for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling or jumping into the sea from rocks and ledges along the rugged coast. 


This aerial video of a boat trip to Vourlia beach on Proti island is from the website for Proti Cruises, which offers a variety of daily “mini cruise” excursions from Marathopoli


Proti Island monastery

The Monastery of the Assumption of Gorgopigi is one of the sights that hikers might encounter while walking some of the trails on Proti Island. This photo appears on the websites for Lagouvardos Apartments and other Marathopoli-area businesses.



Trekkers can explore Proti Island on three designated hiking routes, while rock climbers can test their skills on the challenging cliffs and coastal rock formations. Fishing trips and sunset tours also are available.

For those curious to see what lies beneath the waves, Ionian Dive Center offers scuba diving excursions to such island sites as the Anouar shipwreck in Vourlia Bay, the Tiganakia wall and cavern, the Blue Hole cavern with stalactites, Callens Valley and the  Beacon Cove.


This video by Ionian Dive Center will take you to the Blue Hole, one of the sights that scuba divers could explore during excursions to Proti Island


Lagouvardas beach

This photo from the official Marathopoli tourism website shows an aerial view of the long strip of golden sand at Lagouvardos beach


Lagouvardos Beach is only 3 kilometers from Marathopoli so it can easily be reached by car, bicycle or even walking. The Culture Trip website has included Lagouvardos on its list of The Best Surfing Spots in Greece, while travel publications and online guides regularly recommend the beach for windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), swimming, canoeing and other watersports. Equipment rentals and lessons are available from the Beach Break surf club at Lagouvardos.

For beach lovers and watersports fans who don’t mind driving a little farther afield, some of Messenia’s most beautiful and world-famous beaches — including Vromoneri, Mati, Romanos, Golden Sands Divari, and the incomparable Voidokilia — are situated within a span of just 7 to 15 kilometers. 


Vromoneri Beach

Just 7 kilometers from Marathopoli is Vromoneri beach, seen in an image from


Located about 9 km from Marathopoli is gorgeous Mati beach, seen in this aerial video by KOABeach Pool Bar


Additionally, the Marathopoli area is ideal for bicycling and mountain biking, while two globally renowned 18-hole courses at nearby Costa Navarino offer golfers the opportunity to tee off in spectacular settings.


Dunes Golf Course at Navarino

Award-winning world-class links await golf enthusiasts at Costa Navarino, just 13 km from Marathopoli. The green pictured above is on The Dunes Course, while the one below is on The Bay Course. Both images are from the Costa Navarino Facebook page.


Bay Course golf course at Navarino

More stunning photos and extensive information about the two golf resorts can be found in the golf section of the Costa Navarino website.

Two nights in Marathopoli: Where we ate and slept


Artina Hotel & Artina Nuovo Hotel Marathopoli

We enjoyed our spacious, comfortable rooms at the Artina Hotel, seen here in an aerial image shared on Google by Nikos Tsiak


Panorama Fish Tavern Restaurant in Marathopoli

On our first night in Marathopoli, we had dinner on this seaview patio at Panorama Fish Tavern Restaurant …


Artoinos Μεζεδοπωλείο Marathopoli

 … while the next night, we enjoyed mezes at Artoinos Μεζεδοπωλείο, seen in a photo from its Facebook page


Great food & accommodations: We ate well and slept well during our brief 2-night stay in the small seaside town of Marathopoli last spring.  Our only disappointment? Not having more time to enjoy our lovely hotel room longer, or to try other restaurants besides the two where we had delicious dinners.

As I mentioned in my March 20 2018 post describing Marathopoli, we had chosen to base ourselves in the town so we could easily access top sites and attractions in Messenia during our road trip through the region. 

Though Marathopoli has fewer than 700 residents, it has a surprising variety of accommodation options, ranging from a budget-friendly campground to 2-star hotels, studio apartments, and luxury suite hotels. Choices include:

♦ the 15-room Hotel Rania (shown as Rania Apartments on Google Maps);

♦ the two-star Porto Marathos, a 33-room property with single, double and triple rooms, as well as four apartments;

♦  Artina Hotel and Artina Hotel Nuovo, two connected hotel buildings with apartment-style suites and a shared swimming pool, breakfast room, and gym;

♦  Megalos Kampos Hotel & Resort, a property offering four large studio apartments and two maisonettes;

♦  Pefkides, a complex of five separate luxury apartment residences that share a large garden area and a swimming pool; 

♦  Agrikies Country Retreat, a complex of four maisonette guest houses that can accommodate up to 5 persons each;

♦  Camping Proti, a full-service campground with spaces for tents and trailers, and facilities that include a cafe-bar, minimarket, TV room, swimming pool, laundry, kitchen and shared refrigerators and freezers;

♦  Esperides, a complex of five independent holiday apartments; 

♦  Faros Luxury Suites, a seaside hotel with 11 kitchenette-equipped luxury apartments; 

Mesogeios Hotel, a group of studios and apartments situated between Marathopoli and Lagouvardos beach;

♦  Lagouvardos Apartments, a collection of seven small, furnished houses near Lagourvardos Beach;

♦   Edem Suites, a collection of standard and family-sized maisonettes near Lagourvardos, and

♦  Messinian Horizons, a complex of 5 luxury maisonette villas situated about 3 km south of Marathopoli.

Our travel companions had suggested we all stay at the Artina Hotel Nuovo, and it proved to be an excellent choice: the location was good; the breakfast buffet was enjoyable; the sea and sunset views were wonderful; and our spacious, well-appointed rooms were extremely comfortable. The nightly rates were very reasonable, too. I would love to stay there again. (You can see photos of our room and the hotel on page 2 of this post.)

For dining, we were again spoiled for choice and had to decide from such top-rated restaurants as:

Panorama Fish Tavern;

Argyris Fish Tavern;

♦  Maistrali Restaurant & Fish Tavern;

♦  Artoinos Mezedopolio;

♦ Miggas Vassilios Taverna;

Riki Mediterranean Restaurant (operated by the proprietors of the Megalo Kampos resort);

♦ Faros Restaurant in the Faros Luxury Suites hotel;

♦  Pame Bounti grillhouse;

♦ Entheon Italian cuisine and pizzeria; and

♦  De Novo Cafe Bar

(A bright new arrival on the Marathopoli dining scene, Opos Palia (Όπως Παλιά_Μεζεδοπωλείο-Ψησταριά), didn’t open until after our visit.)

For a late dinner on our first night in town, we went to Panorama Fish Tavern on the restaurant and bar strip that residents call The Sidewalk. Every dish we ordered — the calamari, horta, grilled local cheese, and meatballs — was tasty and enjoyable, while the service was very good.

The next night we chose Artoinos Mezedopolio, which had received great reviews on travel websites and restaurant apps. Our selections there included skordalia, gigantes, chick pea balls, spetzofai sausages, fried pork in white wine, and pleuvrotos mushrooms. We loved everything and would be hard-pressed to list a favourite, but all of us agreed that the sausages and mushrooms were stand-out dishes.  The wine and service were excellent to match. Artoinos would probably be the first place we’d go for dinner next time we return to Marathopoli.

And what about the Marathopoli nightlife? We didn’t experience any of it ourselves, but the town does have a lively bar and nightclub scene, especially during the main summer travel months. Popular spots for drinks, music and partying include:

♦  Albatross Seaside Cafe-Bar

♦  Aithrio Music Cafe

♦ Animus Wine Bar and Cafe

♦  Rodanthos Club

♦ Puerto Club

♦ Loco Bar, and

♦ Diva Club

If we had stayed out late for a night on the town, though, we certainly would have enjoyed coming back to the Artina Nuovo to crash in our super-comfy beds and awake to the calming panoramic views of the harbour and sea.

Below are panoramic photos I shot on my iphone, showing the interior of our spacious room at the Artina Nuovo as well as the morning and sunset views from our balcony:


Artina Nuovo Hotel room interior

Artina Nuovo Hotel room view

Artina Nuovo Hotel sunset view


More photos of our room and its views, plus pictures of the hotel, can be viewed on page 2 of this post. Of course, more photos and information about the Artina Nuovo, and its sister Artina Hotel, as well as online booking, can be found on the official hotel website.

For customer reviews of the various places to eat in the town, check the Marathopoli restaurant listing on TripAdvisor.



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Marathopoli: A mellow seaside town and ideal base for exploring southwestern Messenia


Marathopoli and Proti island

An aerial view looking west toward the town of Marathopoli and Proti Island. The photo is from the website for Marathopoli’s Artina Hotel Nuovo, where we stayed two nights while visiting historic sites, towns and attractions on a road trip through the Messenia region of the southwestern Peloponnese .


Great location: I didn’t know anything about Marathopoli when our travelling companions suggested we use the small seaside town as a base during two days of our road trip in the Messenian region of the Peloponnese last spring. Quite frankly, I didn’t know exactly where it was or what was there, and I doubt I had even heard of the place before they mentioned it.

What we discovered when we got there, on Day 2 of our trip, was a quiet, laid-back town that was a perfect spot to unwind after busy days of driving, hiking and sightseeing. And, just as our friends had pointed out, it was very conveniently located. All of the major attractions we wanted to see — Methoni Castle, Voidokilia beach, the old castle of Navarino, and the town of Pylos — were less than 40 minutes away. Many more historic sites, beaches and natural attractions we didn’t have time to visit were within reasonable driving distances as well, including The Palace of Nestor; Golden Beach – Mati and Vromomeri beach; and the Valta waterfall,  Neda River, Polylimnio lakes and waterfalls, Gialova wetlands, and more. 



From a tourist perspective, Marathopoli isn’t a particularly remarkable town in and of itself. Although it’s located on the coast, the built-up area of businesses and residences is spread across flat terrain, so it doesn’t boast a naturally picturesque and scenic setting like the more famous Messenian hillside towns of Pylos and Kyparissia. Its streets aren’t as photogenic, since there are no cobblestone lanes lined with rustic old houses and impressive historic buildings to stroll around.

When we arrived at Marathopoli and passed through the main section of town on the way to our accommodations, we found a compact commercial strip with three supermarkets and several other shops catering to the local residents, a couple of cafes and tavernas, and a number of vacant storefronts.  The business area, which occupies just a couple of short blocks, is fairly basic and nondescript — it hasn’t been fancied up with boutique shops, hipster cafes and trendy wine bars geared to upmarket travellers. From what I recall, it didn’t have any shops selling T-shirts and tacky cheap souvenirs, either. The town seemed unassuming and refreshingly “non-touristy,” at least at the low season time we were there. (It could be a slightly different story during the peak travel months of July and August, though.)


Marathopoli main street

A Google Streetview photo of the business area along Marathopoli’s main street


However, Marathopoli does have an attractive pedestrian zone just off the main drag, where visitors will enjoy going for coffee, drinks or dinner, or to take walks with views of the sea and Proti Island.  One block, which leads from the main street toward the sea, has been pleasantly landscaped with brick and flagstone pavement, benches, planter boxes, and old-style streetlamps. Restaurants, a few shops and a bank occupy the buildings along both sides of the block. The street intersects with a flagstone-paved pedestrian walkway (Πεζόδρομος — pezodromos) that extends along the seafront all the way to the town harbour.  Locals refer to it in English as The Sidewalk, and it is the town’s go-to area for a good selection of fish tavernas, traditional Greek restaurants, coffee shops and bars, many of which have open-air patios along the seafront. We found the pedestrian areas incredibly quiet in daytime and early evening, but humming with people and activity at night, once all of the restaurants had opened.


a street in Marathopoli

Visitors will find a bank, shops and restaurants on this block-long pedestrian street which leads from the main road toward the seafront


Marathopoli seaside pedestrian promenade

The pedestrian promenade known locally as The Sidewalk overlooks the seaside and extends from the restaurant zone all the way to the town harbour


restaurant area in Marathopoli

The Sidewalk offers a variety of dining options, including cafes, fish tavernas, restaurants and bars, most of which have patios on the seaside


But The Sidewalk isn’t what draws tourists to Marathopoli. The two main attractions for visitors are Proti Island and Lagouvardos beach, both of which are easily accessed from town.  Proti is reached on excursion boats from the Marathopoli harbour, and offers swimming and cliff jumping at secluded Vourlia beach, trekking on a variety of island trails, rock climbing, snorkeling and scuba diving. Lagouvardos is a large golden-sand beach about 3 kilometers from town, and is popular for board and wind surfing, stand up paddle boarding, swimming and other water sports.  (More information about Proti and Lagouvardos will appear in an upcoming post.)

If you’re planning to travel in western Messenia and looking to stay in a mellow, realxed location with appealing attractions close by and plenty more within reasonable driving distance, take a closer look at Marathopoli.  For us, its location just couldn’t be beat. Our only regret was that we didn’t spend another night or two there; we never made it to Lagouvardos, and at the time of our late May visit the tour boats to Proti Island had not started operating.  But we did enjoy the town’s unhurried, low-key atmosphere, excellent dining, and beautiful sea and sunset views.

For additional information about the town and top attractions nearby, check out the official Marathopoli Tourist Guide as well as as Jessica’s excellent overview article, Marathopoli and the beautiful surrounding area in Messenia, Greece, from the Athens Coast lifestyle website.

To see more of Marathopoli, take a look at the aerial video below, then turn to page 2 where I have posted photos that we shot while wandering around the town and enjoying the almost traffic-free streets.


Aerial views of Marathopoli and Proti Island are featured in this 2-minute video by Nikos Tsiak



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Crumbling walls, perilous terrain & postcard views: Our climb to the old Castle of Navarino


Navarino castle

Walls on the southern side of Palaiokastro, the Old Castle of Navarino, which was built in 1278 near the town of Pylos in the Peloponnese


Old Castle of Navarino

Though parts of the castle walls have collapsed, you can walk atop some of the remaining sections, such as this one high above the Ionian Sea


Old Castle of Navarino

Walking inside the walls can be difficult — even perilous in places —  if you stray off the main trail or try to take a shortcut from the west wall to the east, as we did. The castle’s south yard is overgrown with shrubs and prickly bushes, and the ground is covered with loose rocks and stones that wobble and roll underfoot.


Old Castle of Navarino

The big payoff for those people who make it all the way up to the northeastern corner of the castle: The incredible views of the Ionian Sea, Navarino Bay and the beautiful Messenian coast …


Voidokilia beach

… and, most impressive of all, the stunning Voidokilia beach


Scenic trek: Built 740 years ago, the Palaiokastro / Old Castle of Navarino is certainly showing its age.

Its hilltop exposure to the elements, plus hundreds of years of neglect, have taken a severe toll. The outer walls are crumbling — some sections have collapsed, while others appear ready to tumble anytime  — and only ruins remain of the buildings that once stood inside. Those structures have been reduced to rubble; the former walls and foundations are now boulders, stones and rocks scattered across the ground. The two castle yards are almost entirely overgrown with shrubs, prickly plants, tall grasses and trees that obscure most of the fortress’s interior. It’s possible to walk on some of the outer walls, and dirt paths wind through parts of the grounds, but it can be dangerous to step off the main trails —  the  rocks underfoot tend to shift and wobble as you walk over them, so there’s a constant risk of slipping and falling or twisting an ankle.  

Because of the ancient castle’s derelict condition, plus the ever-present possibility of loose stonework falling from its weathered walls, the Palaiokastro is supposed to be out of bounds to visitors. There’s no fencing to keep anyone out, and no security guards to stop people from entering — just a solitary sign warning that “The Castle of Navarino is closed due to serious danger.” But that doesn’t deter thousands of tourists from visiting the site every year. 

For most, it’s the breathtaking “must see” views that attract them — especially the castle’s unrivalled vantage points for photographing the incomparable and immensely Instagrammable Voidokilia beach.

That’s the main reason why I climbed up to Palaiokastro during our trip through the Peloponnese in May 2017  — I wanted to experience, in-person, the outstanding Voidokilia beach views that had fascinated me in many travel photographs and videos I had seen over the years.



To be honest, I didn’t know the castle was closed, and I also didn’t see the “danger” sign at the bottom of the access path. (My hiking companions did, but they never mentioned it.)  I had read about Palaiokastro on a few travel websites, and knew that it consists mainly of defensive walls enclosing crumbled ruins, but none of the articles had said anything about the castle being closed or possibly dangerous to visit. Some sites even described it as a not-to-be-missed historical attraction. I figured it would take some effort to reach, since it’s situated atop a craggy hill a few hundred meters high. But once up top, I expected that it would be relatively easy to walk around, like the marvellous Methoni Castle which we had visited just the day before (see my post: A walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle for an account of that.)  So when we found the castle access path at the northwest end of Divari beach, I was eager to head up for a look around.

To continue reading and to see more photos of Palaiokastro, please click on the link under the video below to turn to page 2.


This video by AllMessinia takes you on a short flight above Palaiokastro, while subtitles provide historical information about the monument



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A walkabout in Messenia’s 800-year-old Methoni Castle


Methoni Castle

The southern fortification walls of Methoni Castle, viewed from the Venetian-era Bourtzi fortress (below)


Bourtzi fortress of Methoni Castle

The Venetians built the octagonal-shaped Bourtzi fortress on a rocky islet connected to the castle by a stone-paved causeway


Methoni meanderings: Day 2 of our western Peloponnese road trip turned out to be rather “monumental” for us, figuratively speaking, as our travels took us to churches, archaeological sites and castles — some more than 800 years old — plus a place where two major Greek maritime conflicts occurred.

Our drive to and through hundreds of years of history took us first to the Byzantine Church of Samarina, which dates from the 12th Century, followed by a walk around the ruins of the Castle of Androusa, which was built in the 13th Century.

Next stop was the town of Pylos on Navarino Bay, where two of the most significant naval combats in Greek history took place:  the Battle of Pylos which was fought in July of 425 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War, and the October 20 1827 Battle of Navarino, the most pivotal and decisive event of the Greek War of Independence from Turkey.  Besides observing the bay from a variety of vantage points in and around Pylos, we managed to see some of the exterior fortification walls of the impressive Neocastro (Castle of Pylos), which was built in 1573. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go inside to tour the castle interior and see its remarkable hexagonal citadel.

Our final sightseeing stop was the town of Methoni, where we paid an afternoon visit to the majestic Methoni Castle.

Constructed in 1209 by the Venetians, Methoni Castle occupies a sprawling site encompassing nearly 38 hectares.  The castle is so big we couldn’t explore every sector during the two hours we walked around, but we did cover a lot of ground, and managed to see the highlight attractions, including the Bourtzi sea fortress, the Ottoman baths, and the Church of the Metamorphosis Sotiros. (We might have spent more time meandering through the ruins had it not been so sunny and hot.)


Methoni Castle

The stone bridge and entrance to Methoni Castle


Methoni Castle

This pyramid-roofed building was apparently used to store munitions. The inner castle wall beside it is crumbling in places, but visitors can still walk on the top to get views of the entire castle site.


Methoni Castle

A curiosity inside the castle is a tall, red granite column topped with a Byzantine-style capital. Often called “Morosoni’s Stele,” the column is believed to have been topped with either a sculpture of the winged lion of Venice, or a bust of the Venetian Doge Francesco Morosini.


Methoni Castle Turkish baths

The round, domed roofs of the former Turkish baths (hamam) 


Methoni Castle

A tall, arched passageway inside the fortification walls


Methoni Castle church

One of the patterned floors inside the Church of the Metamorphosis Sotiros


My favourite castle features were the elegant stone entrance bridge (built by the French in 1829 to replace a wooden drawbridge), the Bourtzi fortress, the interior of Metamorphosis church, and the breathtaking 360-degree views from atop one of the main inner walls. I also was fascinated by the variety of shapes and angles that architects had chosen when designing the castle’s imposing fortification walls and the buildings they protected. These included rounded and pointed archways, square and rectangular houses and public buildings, an arsenal with a pyramid-shaped roof, the octagonal Bourtzi fortress, sloped and vertical defensive walls, and the round, spaceship-like domed roofs of the hamam (Turkish baths) built by Ottoman occupiers.

Admission cost only €2 per person, by the way — a bargain, considering the size of the castle.

Below is a brand-new aerial video of Methoni Castle that was published, coincidentally enough, right while I was putting this post together. On page 2 you can view some of the photos we shot while meandering through the ruins. If you’d like to read more about the history of Methoni Castle, click here to read a detailed description from the Kastrologos Castles of Greece website.


The grandeur and vast size of Methoni Castle are captured in this aerial video published February 28 2018 by George Magoulis



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